Becoming Qualified – My Personal Journey
Reflections on the long and winding road to accreditation…
By Dawn Gwilt
I’ve been asked to write something for the UKAGP newsletter about my recent experience of becoming a qualified Gestalt practitioner.
It is now six months since I submitted my final assignments (in July 2015) for my Advanced Diploma and UKCP registration, and I found out that I passed in November and became registered in December. As I look back, my process divides into two very contrasting experiences of before and after submitting my work, and I’d like to write something about this contrast.
The ‘before’ period was the two years after I completed my training and before I submitted my final assignments. During this time I prioritised working on my case study and tape transcript, putting much of my life on hold in order to devote time and energy to writing.
What stands out from this stage of the process is the feeling of having to jump through so many hoops, and only gradually coming to understand what those hoops were. I often felt I was squeezing myself in order to fit, and with that memory I instinctively squeeze my arms to my sides and lower my head, making myself smaller. Initially the criticism of my case study seemed harsh and at times I felt crushed and over-exposed. A growing edge for me was to trust that I wouldn’t lose myself through working relationally rather than independently. An experiential shift came as my tutor and I stayed with and worked through the co-transference around criticism. Gradually, what had seemed harsh developed into supportive dialogue, enabling me to grow into my own authority.
Perhaps this was a necessary process leading to the ‘after’ period, which has been a complete contrast. For the first time since I started my training, I am reconfiguring my support system purely for myself, finding and creating tailor-made supports without the added pressure of having to complete assignments for others to assess. This is a delightful process! I have formed a peer supervision group with two of my fellow-trainees who qualified around the same time as me, as well as making other shifts in my supervision.
I have also started a self-questioning process about my work as a therapist – What do I like? What am I good at? When do I feel most effective, or least effective? As I move forward with these questions, I feel myself expanding, growing, taking up my full size and space. An image comes to me of a cartoon character who has been flattened by a heavy weight, and now with the weight removed, is gradually springing back into shape.
I know I am not alone in finding this process extremely challenging. My understanding of the process of becoming qualified is to prove beyond doubt that I am a competent, safe, reliable and ethical practitioner, and I fully agree with the necessity of this. Some questions remain for me: Is it possible to
make this assessment in a more supportive way? Is the process overly demanding? Or is it necessary to go through this process in order to arrive at this place of looking outward, fully engaged with my excitement and emerging sense of direction?
Dawn Gwilt is a UKCP registered Gestalt Psychotherapist with over seven years clinical experience. She trained at Welsh Psychotherapy Partnership, and presently works in private practice at Birmingham Counselling and Psychotherapy Centre and Worcester Therapy Group. She worked previously with Cruse Bereavement Care, Primrose Hospice, and Birmingham Women’s Aid. Prior to becoming a psychotherapist she trained as a classical cellist and worked both as a teacher and a performer. Visit Dawn’s website @ www.birminghamtherapy.com